[link to www.motherjones.com
Opus Dei powerbrokers have gained enormous influence inside the Vatican since they helped install the current pope. The courting of John Paul II began when he was still the archbishop of Krakow. He was asked to speak at Opus Dei colleges and at the group's international headquarters in Rome. In an effort to enhance Wojtyla's image as papabile, these speeches were printed by Opus Dei in book form and circulated among members of the Vatican hierarchy. When Karol Wojtyla became pope, he returned the favor by elevating Opus Dei to the unique status of a "personal prelature." Critics of Opus Dei fear that the pope's edict will allow its members to elude the authority of local bishops in special circumstances, thereby strengthening the order's tendency to function as a "church within a church." This was an important victory for Opus Dei, which had been rebuffed on previous occasions by both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI.
[link to articles.latimes.com
Now with its papal benefactor gone, Opus Dei's influence under the next pope -- and its role in choosing the new pontiff -- have become hot topics in a city awash in speculation as the world's cardinals meet behind the closed doors of the Sistine Chapel to elect John Paul's successor.
Opus Dei, or "Work of God," was founded in Spain in 1928. It is based on the idea that Catholics, male and female, can live a sanctified life without being priests or nuns. Many of its 85,000 worldwide members work in legal, medical, financial and media professions and profess unquestioning fidelity to the church's teachings and loyalty to the pope. But critics have called the group elitist, and it was depicted as a villainous secret society in Dan Brown's bestselling novel, "The Da Vinci Code."
Officially, Opus Dei has stressed that it is above the fray. Its prelate, Bishop Javier Echevarria, has called for prayer, not politicking. He has also pledged the group's loyalty to whomever the cardinals elect.
"We already love with our whole soul the successor of John Paul II, whoever he may be," Echevarria wrote to the organization's members. "Let us renew our desire to serve the pope, for it was only to serve the church that God wanted Opus Dei."
Others note that for the first time, two of the 115 voting cardinals -- Julian Herranz of Spain and Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne of Peru -- are members of Opus Dei, giving the group the ability to work inside the conclave.